The Legal Beat
Law School Professor Doesn’t Understand Twitter, Basic Legal Concepts
Posted on Thursday July 18, 2019
Brian Leiter of U. Chicago Law is probably best described as irascible, but he’s undeniably a fun character in the legal world. Sure, he occasionally just makes stuff up about us and then doubles down on his easily debunked claims, but he creates some academic rankings of interest and talks about Nietzsche a lot so it all shakes out. (NOTE: The images are gone from these posts due to an archival purge, so there’s nothing wrong with your computer if you see a lot of blank spaces)
But Leiter reached “old man yells at cloud” status this week when he took to Twitter to make a curious claim that manages to screw up Twitter, intellectual property law, and basic contracts all at once:
My lawyer told me that I would have to copyright all my tweets to stop assholes from reposting them, as some are still doing. I have however been purging followers without real names, unless I know them. I will continues to add followers with real identities.
My advice for Professor Leiter based on this tweet would be to find a new lawyer who is aware that Leiter’s tweets actually ARE copyrighted the instant he commits his thoughts to writing. That copyright may not be registered without additional work on his part, however, copyright is automatic. But that’s the sort of stuff that doesn’t come up in “Law and Philosophy” courses, so it’s probably not a legal concept that’s top of mind for the professor.
But even armed with a copyright to his tweets, Leiter’s still not going to be able to prevent people from reposting them, because Twitter’s terms of service make very clear that users are affording the service — and its other users — a license to use the content anywhere:
By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed). This license authorizes us to make your Content available to the rest of the world and to let others do the same.
As it turns out, the solution to preventing people from reposting Leiter’s tweets is simple and it is not to write tweets. Failing that, Leiter’s just going to have to live with having to stand by the words he puts up on Twitter.
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.